It is true that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9) and for those of us old enough to remember computer bureaux the move the cloud computing is an amusing ‘back to the future’ moment. As Ambrose Bierce said: “There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know”.
Or rather lots of things that we’ve forgotten now, but which we used to know back in the days of mainframes and computer bureaux. And with cloud computing I’m not sure that the cloud is where we need it to be yet in terms of robustness, reliability and resilience.
However, all that aside, I think that cost constraints are going to force business into using cloud computing whether they like it or not; or even whether or not the cloud is ready for them.
Robin Bloor has written a good post on the The Death of the Data Center that discusses the economics of data centres and why they will move to the cloud quite quickly.
This means that businesses really need to understand what particular services and expertise they are buying when they buy into the cloud. Thus due diligence comes to the fore, as does understanding contractual terms. My big fear with this is that – just like the terrible early contracts for outsourcing – we are going to see some notable disasters with cloud computing agreements.
Another concern is the vendors of cloud computing. Some of these companies will not clearly understand the scale that some of their larger corporate clients operate upon. Back in the dot-com days one company I knew of accidentally sent a web hosting provider into bankruptcy. This happened for various reasons, but chief among them was that the vendor did not understand just how big their new client really was AND because they did not know when to say ‘no’ to new business. My concerns regarding the vendors are around robustness of their processes and their ability to service enterprise clients effectively.
The other key issues are governance and risk management. Our governance models will need to adapt to address boundary management issues, like who is responsible at what stage of a transaction processing. What will happen where some parts of the application or infrastructure are internally managed and some are in the cloud. What monitoring is in place and who is accountable for managing problems – is ITIL the answer? How we manage the risk around infrastructure that we share with other customers is another question.
These are very similar business-technology problems to those encountered with outsourcing, and it will be interesting to see if businesses are able to take the lessons learned from that and apply them successfully to cloud computing.
The real challenge is the complexity we will be adding to our IT infrastructure and applications. We are moving into a period where an IT department might need to manage applications that are spread across internal, outsourced, cloud and many variants of these. Have we got the skills in place to manage this increased operational complexity during a period of cost constraint?